Ram Ujagar, our Sabzi waala asked me to walk his son to my colony. "Madamji he doesn't know how to operate a lift. Please help him a little. He has to drop some veges in your society"
That nine year old boy is my saviour. His name is Anil.
You would have heard of school drop outs. I shudder to think what happens in schools where kids voluntarily drop out. The teachers must be really unfriendly and disinterested or absolutely unskilled.
Anil and I had learnt operating the lift that day. He had not allowed me to help him cross the road. But we had negotiated that I could watch him cross the road.
Anil's father Ram Ujagar is an enterprising sabziwaala. He has a mobile. He is good at home delivering fresh sabzi. So the next day Ram ujagar was at my door step. He had come to deliver sabzi.
"Madamji my son says you'll not scold him. He wants to study from you'
Now what can be a better compliment.
In the following days Anil and his brother Deepak became our students. My mother became their teacher. My mother who was a little melancholic with her health issues found a new lease of life and meaning with two little boys around.
Our cook Renu watched my mother teach the children patiently. She asked me if her son could come to study as well. She qualified him as inattentive.
"He is a naughty boy"- she said.
"The teacher must not be committed" is what my mother and I maintained.
First Renu's son and gradually her daughter joined us.
My mother taught them for six months. Then came the time when she needed to visit our home town. The kids were concerned. And I really mean 'actively concerned'. They asked my mother what would become of them after she was gone. Trust me when I say we don't like kids worrying about things like 'education'.
I took over very naturally!! I am a bad teacher but I had Anil's trust. I told myself the following- a)Don't scold. b)Understand why a person is not understanding something c)Don't think about the exams. d)Make them enjoy their studies. e) Tell them 'I do't know. I will find out' when I don't know something.
We went for a Metro ride. We bathed in India Gate's muddy pool on a raiy day. We visited the zoo and tried sounding like the birds and the beasts in front of us. We watched Kung fu Panda and Aladdin. We are watching SWAMI these days. We love it.
One day we saw a really malnourished little girl in our society. My friends had moved in with me by now. So I summoned courage to take some more responsibility.
"Where do you stay?"
The family peered out of their one room apartment suspiciously.
"Does she go to school?"
I saw a slightly older girl spring out of nowhere.
"Yes we both go to school"
I could sense I was being intrusive. So I was quick.
"You can come to study with us. We teach. B-501. Come if u want to. Come with your sister"
Nothing happened the next two days.
I saw the little girl again.
I rushed home this time. Came down with a pack of biscuits. Gave it to the lady I presumed to be her grad mother
"Please give your grand daughter this. Please feed her better. She is very thin."
That evening I came back home early. The elder sister of that lil girl came running towards me.
"Didi I want to study"
"Then please come. Can you come in the morning?"
"No Didi we come back from school at 1pm"
"Come in the evening then...there is another didi there. She'll teach you. Bring your younger sister along for sure".
My friend Parvati was both excited and apprehensive about teaching. She is doing her PHd. She is super disciplined about her work. However, we thought two kids in the evening was a great start.
Call of duty and I took the next morning flight to Mumbai.
In the evening I called Parvati keen to know whether the two kids had show their face. Parvati's voice sounded happier than ever before.
"Well I did open the door thinking there would be two kids...but in came six!!"
"Yes Pooja spoke to her friends...and all these kids came in saying they all want to study.Pooja is the girl who spoke with you and Anjali is her younger sister."
"They are all interested in studying??"
"Interested!! You don't know what kind of interest is this. After the class ended they extended their copies sheepishly asking for homework"
When I came back from mumbai I was super excited about reaching home!!
Home now is where there are several pairs of tiny rubber slippers outside our doors!!Home is where the kids came marching in!